It was Hughson week on the baseball diamond, as the Escalon varsity Cougars split their contests with the Huskies.
They started the week on the road, playing at Hughson on Tuesday, April 16 and getting the win.
“It was a wild game, it went three hours, 10 minutes and after 29 combined runs, 22 hits, 10 errors, 17 walks and six hit batsmen, we came out ahead, 18-11,” said head coach Greg Largent. “There was some ugly baseball by both teams; it was more like something you might see in a preseason major league game than a game this late in the regular season.”
Though they won by a seemingly comfortable margin, Largent said the game was much closer than that until the final inning.
“We put seven runs on the board in the seventh,” the coach noted.
The back and forth battle saw Escalon go up 2-0 in the first, Hughson made it 2-1 in the bottom of the inning. It was 3-1 Escalon after the top of the second but Hughson tied it with two runs of their own in their next at bat. In the fourth, the Cougars went up 4-3 with a run, Hughson scored two in the bottom of the fourth for a 5-4 lead. It was a five-run top of the fifth for Escalon to lead it 9-5, the Huskies put three on the board in their at bat to trim the lead to 9-8. Two more runs were scored by each team in the sixth, the Cougars leading 11-10 but the seven-run seventh gave Escalon the distance they needed. They took an 18-10 lead into the bottom of the seventh and Hughson was able to get just one run back in the seventh for the 18-11 final.
Luke Anderson got the start on the mound for Escalon but struggled, going just an inning and a third. Bryce McPherrin came on in relief and went two-and-two thirds innings with Carson George ultimately getting the victory.
“He came in and threw strikes, kept us in the game and got the win,” Largent said of George. “Each team had five errors, they used five pitchers, we used three.”
Big hitters on the day for Escalon were Cole Gilbert, 2-for-3 with six runs batted in, including a two-run homer in the first inning and a three-run double in the fifth. Devin Roberson went 3-for-4, Clay Evans was 2-for-4 and Brad Hagglund was 2-for-5 as the Cougars put up 14 total hits.
Thursday, the competition shifted to Escalon, with the Huskies prevailing in an 8-7 final.
“It was a much cleaner game,” Largent said of not seeing the multitude of errors that plagued both squads on Tuesday. “It was a seesaw battle, it was tied 7-7 in the sixth.”
Gilbert got the start and went just an inning and two-thirds, Ethan Johnson worked four and two-thirds innings of solid relief before giving way to Zach Hearn.
Hughson scored single runs in the first, second, third and seventh innings, two runs in the fourth and sixth. Escalon countered with a run in the first, three in the second, one in the fourth and two in the fifth.
The Cougars were not able to cash in on a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth. They got a leadoff double from Roberson but after a non-call on an apparent balk by the Hughson pitcher, a hidden ball trick, a faked tag and a subsequent put out at third, the momentum swung the Huskies’ way.
In the top of the seventh, the Huskies got a leadoff walk and were able to parlay that into the winning run. With that leadoff runner getting over to third, the Huskies had the bases loaded with one out. Hearn came on in relief of Johnson at that point.
“He threw strikes, made them put the ball in play,” Largent said of Hearn. “Ethan also did a great job in relief.”
On a soft fly to left field with one out, Roberson came racing in and went into a dive, he had the ball in his glove but it popped out when he made contact with the ground. That allowed the runner on third to scramble home but Roberson, reacting quickly, was able to get the force out of the runner going from second to third. The next batter send a short fly to center field, with Ty Harris getting a good read on it and going full speed to make the catch for the final out. But it was 8-7 Hughson heading into the bottom of the seventh.
“We went quietly in the seventh. It was another heartbreaker,” Largent noted. “We had plenty of opportunities to score (throughout the game) and didn’t.”
Hughson had eight runs on 10 hits with one error; Escalon had seven runs on 11 hits with four errors. Escalon ended the week at 4-6 in league play.
Some strong individual efforts against Hughson in the loss came from Lucca Dutra, 4-for-4 with three runs batted in, Roberson went 2-for-3 and Hagglund scored three runs.
This week the Cougars were scheduled to take part in the Mark Dickens Tournament in Oakdale with games Monday through Wednesday.